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Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

By Karen Minard #64779

I met a couple, Virgil and Nola, at a Monaco rally in Salem, Oregon, in 2004, and it inspired me to write this article on an important subject. It is a subject specific to men’s health but has the potential to affect everyone he cares about and who cares about him if uninformed choices are made.

First, before I start the main subject, let me say there are several very important exams that need to be performed on people in the age group over 45 to 50. These are colonoscopy to prevent/find colon cancer, mammogram to prevent/find breast cancer, PSA blood test and rectal prostate exam to prevent/find prostate cancer in men. Each of these tests needs to be done at least yearly, except the colonoscopy, which is typically done every five years unless a biopsy was done for polyps or other indication. The doctor will then usually have you return within three years and again within two to three years and, if no further indication warrants the procedure, you will return to the every-five-year plan. Each of these cancers is preventable/treatable if abnormalities are found early.

The prostate gland, specific to men, is part muscular and glandular and surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra. Its purpose is to secrete a thin fluid that forms part of the semen. Other than sexually transmitted diseases causing enlargement or disease, the gland commonly tends to enlarge after middle age. This can lead to impeded urination and sometimes urinary retention. Benign and malignant tumors, calculi and nodular thickening are also common.

Urologists provide men’s genitourinary care. Common treatment for prostate problems may be a balloon dilatation, biopsies, prostatectomy (surgical removal of part or all of the prostate gland), radiation from radioactive seeds placed in the bladder or external radiation and chemotherapy treatment. When surgical prostatectomy (casually called “roto rooter”) is needed, men may be left impotent but are definitely impotent with a radical type of prostatectomy. Surgical implants, local injections or other devices can help with impotency.

Proton Radiation Treatment

• Precisely radiates the tumor site while leaving surrounding healthy tissue and organs intact.
• Is noninvasive and painless and allows a man to carry on normal activities throughout the treatment process, including intimate activities.
• Results in minimal to no side effects.
• Is also highly effective for treatment of tumors in the head, brain and neck.
• Is often used in conjunction with other treatment modalities.
• The proton treatment may take one day to nine weeks, depending on the affected site.

Now, to the main subject of this article. Specifically, it is the treatment for prostate problems that is so important. It is a known fact inside the medical world that people will only receive the level of treatment the person’s doctor is skilled to give and that will also keep the doctor in business. Many doctors, thankfully, will refer the patient to the specialist who is skilled in what the person needs; however, unfortunately, some do not. They use older techniques because they have not been advancing their training. The use of surgery and the use of the older type of radiation treatments for prostate problems continue to cause devastation to many men. The most common type of radiation treatment used today, no matter the location of the cancer, cannot be precisely aimed and always damages local and surrounding tissue, among other negative side effects, including pain, burned tissue and scarring.

The people I met in Salem gave me information, video and numbers from Loma Linda University Medical Center, in Loma Linda, California, to help inform me about proton treatment for prostate problems. I sat with them as they shared their story with me. As simply consumers of medical care like us, and had it not been for their getting a second opinion, which we should always do, they may have had an unfortunate outcome. After the proton treatment at LLUMC, they asked Virgil’s first urologist why he did not tell them about the alternative treatment for prostate cancer, and the doctor stated, “How could I stay in business if I tell my patients about this?” They almost fell over, as I almost did when they told me.

Proton treatment is not new. It is the most precise form of radiation treatment and has been available for the over 20 years. There are existing facilities and others under development across the country, including Florida, Indiana, Texas and Massachusetts and also in Japan. Medicare and over 180 other insurance providers cover proton treatment in the U.S. Approximately 140 to 150 patients are treated each day at Loma Linda, with over 4,000 of them being men for prostate treatment. 

Karen has been in nursing since 1969, with the last eight years as a travel contract RN across the country. Her areas of specialty are emergency room and telemetry. Karen lives full-time in her motorhome. Karen advises that nothing written is meant to diagnose, prescribe or take the place of seeing a physician. Portions of her articles have been previously published or will be published in other informational newsletters and publications.

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